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Artists Chaim Soutine

Chaim Soutine

Russian-French Painter

Movement: Expressionism

Born: January 13, 1893 - Smilavichy, Russian Empire

Died: August 9, 1943 - Paris, France

Quotes

"My paintings are a heap of shit, but better than Modigliani, Marc Chagall, and Krémènge. Some day I will destroy my canvases but [I am] too cowardly to do it."
Chaim Soutine
"I never touched Cubism myself, you know, although I was attracted by it one time. When I was painting at Ceret and at Cagnes I yielded to its influence in spite of myself, and the results were not entirely banal."
Chaim Soutine
"You have no right to interfere with my art. Your wife is not your property. I need her, in order to finish my picture, I must have her!"
Chaim Soutine
"I want to show Paris in the carcass of an ox."
Chaim Soutine

"Once I saw the village butcher slice the neck of a bird and drain the blood out of it. I wanted to cry out, but his joyful expression caught the sound in my throat ... This cry, I always feel it there. When, as I drew a crude portrait of my professor, I tried to rid myself of this cry, but in vain. When I painted the beef carcass it was still this cry that I wanted to liberate. I have still not succeeded."

Synopsis

Chaim Soutine is an Expressionist artist that lived and worked in Paris at the height of the modern era. Despite dominant trends toward abstraction, Soutine maintained a firm connection to recognizable subject matter. His innovation was in the way he chose to represent his subjects: with a thick impasto of paint covering the surface of the canvas, the palette, visible brushwork, and forms translated the artist's inner torment. As an expatriate Russian Jew living within Paris, with few friends beyond fellow artist Amedeo Modigliani, Soutine interpreted common themes with the eye of an outsider, further enhancing his unique perspective regarding his human subjects, landscapes, and still lifes and lending them a particular vanitas and poignancy. A prototypical wild artist, Soutine's temper and depression are both well documented and were poured into the paint he layered on the canvas. Soutine's body of work transcends the movements that dominated the avant-garde during his lifetime, expressing a clear personal and artistic vision that both looks back at historic themes as well as toward future modernist styles.

Key Ideas

Soutine looked to established masters like Rembrandt van Rijn and Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin for inspiration, often referencing subject matter from their paintings in his own work. However, although many of his paintings contain clear references to historic works, Soutine reinterpreted each theme, imbuing it with a drama and tension derived from his own complex emotions not present in the older work.
A preoccupation with food dominates Soutine's vivid still lifes, with the focus placed on the bodies of animals used for food. The artist's complex relationship to food, with its prominent place in Jewish ritual as well as its scarcity in his youth and early career, lends the common vanitas theme a deeper, more personal meaning.
Although labeled within art history as an Expressionist, Soutine's subjects and paintings are far from the typical urban angst commonly portrayed by German Expressionists. Instead, his unique mode of conveying his inner psyche through the manipulation of paint set a precedent that would reappear with the mid-twentieth century Abstract Expressionists.
Soutine's early experience of religious persecution had a large influence throughout his life, on both his personality and his art. His personal experience of discrimination provided the fuel for his expressive rendering of common objects and themes. He filtered his angst into his brushstrokes and, practicing painting as an act of devotion, he provided many later Jewish artists with an early twentieth-century role model.

Most Important Art

Carcass of Beef (1925)
Here, Soutine cunningly portrayed the beef split open, as if bearing its soul to the viewer. Soutine's repeated use of animal carcasses as the subject matter for still life paintings likely stems from his complex relationship with food and his adoration of the work of Rembrandt. During his repeated visits to the Louvre, Soutine pondered the old master's Slaughtered Ox, which bears a strong resemblance to Carcas of Beef(1655). Unlike Rembrandt, Soutine isolated the subject and employed an unusual method in the creation of this still life. After hanging the side of beef bought at a Parisian slaughterhouse in his studio, he had his assistant fetch a bucket of fresh cow's blood every few days and, while painting this work, Soutine would repeatedly pour blood over the carcass to ensure it maintained the bright color of freshly cut beef. Meanwhile, his assistant fanned away flies and neighbors complained to the police about the smell, even causing health inspectors to almost cart the beef away. Luckily his assistant intervened, as Soutine was far too engrossed in painting, and the artist was allowed to finish what is largely regarded as his masterpiece. The very visceral image of Soutine pouring blood over the carcass, as well as rapidly applying layer after layer of liquid paint to the canvas, recalls the later action painting of the mid-twentieth century. A direct link to this painting can be found in the work of Francis Bacon, which reflects the dark, emotional turmoil of Soutine as well as the use of anthropomorphized beef to reveal the artist's psyche.
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Biography

Childhood

Chaim Soutine was born and raised in the small Jewish settlement of Smilavichy, near Minsk, in what is present-day Belarus. The tenth of 11 children, his father was a tailor and Soutine was raised under extremely modest means. His upbringing was fairly typical of Russian-born Jews during this era, who were forced to endure persecution and discrimination from a hostile government. Soutine's interest in drawing incurred opposition within his Orthodox family and the small community because of Talmudic proscriptions regarding images. According to an oft-recounted story, young Soutine was beaten in punishment after presenting a portrait to a rabbi. The suffering he experienced within the Jewish ghetto of his youth is believed to have worked its way into his later canvases.

At age 16, Soutine traveled to Minsk and, from 1910 to 1913, studied at the Vilna Academy of Fine Arts (in what is now the town of Vilnius), one of the few academies of its kind that accepted Jews. While enrolled, Soutine was exposed to artists from the Russian avant-garde as well as older Russian masters like renowned seascape painter Ivan Aivazovsky and landscape artist Fyodor Alekseev. Soutine excelled at drawing and painting during his early tutelage, yet instructors noted the young artist's penchant for tragedy and visually dark subject matter.

Early Training

Chaim Soutine Biography

Following his training at Vilna, at age 19, Soutine traveled to Paris with fellow students Pinchus Kremegne and Marcel Kikoine and enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, working for two years in the studio of Fernand Cormon, a highly respected historical painter. He also began making frequent visits to the Louvre and conducted close studies of works by the likes of Francisco Goya, El Greco, Jacopo Tintoretto, Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, and Gustave Courbet. The paintings of Rembrandt van Rijn, however, made a distinct impact on the young Soutine, who came to adore the master's portraiture, still lifes, and dramatic use of light. Later in life, Soutine reportedly made several trips by train to Amsterdam and slept on a park bench outside of the Rijksmuseum, just for the chance to spend more time with the museum's Rembrandt collection.

In 1915, while living in La Ruche - literally "The Beehive" - a rather shabby artist's residence in the southwestern outskirts of Paris, friend and fellow artist Jacques Lipchitz introduced Soutine to Amedeo Modigliani, an Italian-Jewish emigre, who had a great influence on Soutine's career. Soutine was quite shy, both with women and in general, and had an intense and temperamental manner that further complicated socializing and establishing a career. His newfound friendship with Modigliani, however, helped assuage these difficulties, as Soutine stated, "He gave me confidence in myself." A great admirer of Soutine's early portraits and still lifes of food, Modigliani soon introduced Soutine to his art dealer, Leopold Zborowski, who almost immediately offered to represent Soutine. Modigliani and Soutine's friendship was also commemorated by a series of portraits the artists made of one another in 1917.

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Chaim Soutine Biography Continues

Mature Period

Soutine chose to eschew the dominant early twentieth-century avant-garde trends of Cubism, Dada, and Futurism in favor of a more traditional approach, honing his skills as a portraitist and painter of still lifes. Food in particular was a constant obsession in his work, which likely stemmed from its central role in Jewish ritual. Early examples of this interest include Still Life with Tureen (1914-15) and Still Life with Herrings (1916), while a decade later more grisly examples followed like Flayed Rabbit (1924) and his series of beef carcasses. In his repeated use of beef, poultry, fish, and other animal carcasses as subject matter over the course of several decades, one can surmise that Soutine also held an obsessive interest in death.

As World War I drew to a close, Soutine returned to Paris with the financial support of Zborowski, following three years of living in the provinces. He began to create a great number of portraits of local townspeople and service laborers like cooks, maids, and boot polishers, most of whom he met randomly. While in Ceret in the French Pyrenees and in Cagnes during the early 1920s, Soutine devoted himself to the creation of dramatically expressionist landscapes and natural scenes of the French peasantry, infusing the typically Impressionist and Post-Impressionist subject matter with his darkly pseudo-abstract approach that reflected his continued angst and sorrow regardless of his surroudings.

The 1920s were Soutine's most productive years and, consequently, the most lucrative time of his career. In 1923, while Soutine's works were exhibited at the gallery of art dealer Paul Guillame, American collector Albert C. Barnes was quite taken with one of Soutine's portraits of a pastry cook. Guillame privately showed him more of Soutine's work, the bulk of which the collector promptly purchased. Dr. Barnes' patronage raised the price for all of Soutine's work and allowed him to live in financial stability for the rest of his career. His first dealer and patron, Zborowski, died in 1932, but Soutine received generous support from the wealthy French collectors Madeleine and Marcellin Castaing, who welcomed Soutine to stay at their summer home in Leves from 1930 to '35. During the 1930s, Soutine participated in a number of well-received exhibitions, including a solo show in Chicago and group exhibition entitled The Origins and Development of International Independent Art in Paris.

Late Period and Death

Chaim Soutine Portrait

On the eve of World War II, Soutine had been living with his companion and nurse-maid Gerda, a Jewish-German woman who fled to Paris in 1935. Gerda was forcibly removed to a camp for German nationals in 1940, as the Nazis neared France. At the loss of their stable relationship, Soutine was distraught. However, later that year Soutine became romantically involved with Max Ernst's former wife, Marie-Berthe Aurenche, who remained his muse and mistress until his death. With the Nazi invasion of Paris in the summer of 1940, Soutine was eventually forced to flee his apartment in Paris for fear of being captured by the Gestapo. The years that followed were Soutine's darkest, as he was forced from a safe house in Paris to villages in the Loire valley, moving from place to place with forged passports. The stress of living like a hunted man aggravated Soutine's ulcers. He was rushed to a hospital in Chinon due to anemia and pain, but his condition required an emergency surgery in Paris. The travel and operation took over 24 hours, and Soutine died of a perforated ulcer on August 9, 1943, at 50 years old.


Legacy

Despite being the lone Expressionist in Paris amidst the Cubists and Dadaists, Soutine secured a stable career for himself and paved the way for later avant-gardes. His work represents an important precursor to action painting and Abstract Expressionism, especially his animal carcass paintings, which he painted with great rapidity, and his landscapes, which reflect the all-over compositions and gestural brushwork adopted by later artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Recent exhibitions have demonstrated the direct influence Soutine's meat still lifes had on Francis Bacon, evidenced by the presence of sides of beef in several works by the British artist. Similarly, the thick impasto of Soutine's canvases and his dramatically simplified rendering of human subjects show a clear link to the Art Brut work of Jean Dubuffet.

Influences and Connections

Influences on artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Influenced by artist

Artists, Friends, Movements

Chaim Soutine
Interactive chart with Chaim Soutine's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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View Influences Chart

Artists

Rembrandt
Francisco Goya
Gustave Courbet
Henri Matisse
Paul Cézanne

Friends

Jacques Lipchitz
Amedeo Modigliani

Movements

Renaissance
Realism
Post-Impressionism
Fauvism
Expressionism
Chaim Soutine
Chaim Soutine
Years Worked: 1915 - 1940

Artists

Marc Chagall
Jean Dubuffet
Jackson Pollock
Willem de Kooning
Francis Bacon

Friends

Amedeo Modigliani
Albert C. Barnes

Movements

CoBrA Group
Abstract Expressionism
Neo-Expressionism

Useful Resources on Chaim Soutine

Books
Videos
More
The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.
biography
Chaim Soutine: An Expressionist in Paris

By Norman L. Kleeblatt, Kenneth E. Silver

Chaim Soutine, 1893-1943

By David Sylvester

artworks
Chaim Soutine (1893-1943): Catalogue Raisonne

By Maurice Tuchman, Esti Dunow, Klaus Perls, Ingo F. Walther

Chaim Soutine 1893-1943

By Chaim Soutine, Maurice Tuchman

More Interesting Books about Chaim Soutine
articles/reviews
'Lost Generation' Artist, Chaim Soutine's Major Works to Be Auctioned at Sotheby's

ArtEconomist.com
March 27, 2012

Two Meaty Visions of Flesh and Blood

Review of the connection between Soutine and Francis Bacon
By Karen Rosenberg
The New York Times
May 12, 2011

Record Paid for a Work by Soutine

By Christopher Knight
The Los Angeles Times
February 7, 2007

Soutine, That Painter of Death, Surrounded by a Crowd of His Lively Admirers

By Ken Johnson
The New York Times
August 11, 2006

More Interesting Resources about Chaim Soutine
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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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Expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism
Expressionism is a broad term for a host of movements in early twentieth-century Germany and beyond, from Die Brücke (1905) and Der Blaue Reiter (1911) to the early Neue Sachlichkeit painters in the 1920s and '30s. Many Expressionists used vivid colors and abstracted forms to create spiritually or psychologically intense works, while others focused on depictions of war, alienation, and the modern city.
TheArtStory: Expressionism
Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani was a Jewish-Italian painter working in Paris from 1906 onwards. His unique style was influenced by Post-Impressionism, Brancusi and Cézanne, and featured ovaloid faces, elongated forms, and the use of brushed, modulated color fields.
TheArtStory: Amedeo Modigliani
Rembrandt
Rembrandt
Rembrandt
Known throughout history simply as Rembrandt, the seventeenth-century Dutch artist is among the premier master painters in Western civilization. Working during the time historians have dubbed the Dutch Golden Age (or the Dutch Baroque period), Rembrandt's art was characterized by his sweeping Biblical narratives, stunning attention to detail, and masterful use of chiaroscuro, the painterly application of light and shadow. In this respect, he remains one of the most influential painters of all time.
Rembrandt
Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin
Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin
Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin
Chardin is a lauded eighteenth-century French painter of still life, and is regarded as a master of portraiture and impasto brushwork, influencing a great number of early European modern painters. Chardin's work is remembered above all for his subjects, which include kitchen maids, children and other domestic scenes.
Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin
Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism
A tendency among New York painters of the late 1940s and '50s, all of whom were committed to an expressive art of profound emotion and universal themes. The movement embraced the gestural abstraction of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, and the color field painting of Mark Rothko and others. It blended elements of Surrealism and abstract art in an effort to create a new style fitted to the postwar mood of anxiety and trauma.
TheArtStory: Abstract Expressionism
Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya
Francisco Goya was an eighteenth-century Spanish painter, and is considered by many to be "the father of modern painting." Informed by the Baroque style and the Classicists, Goya's art was part of the Romanticism movement, but also contained provocative elements such as social critiques, nudes, war, and allegories of death. He is considered a major influence on the works of Manet, Picasso, and Dali.
TheArtStory: Francisco Goya
El Greco
El Greco
El Greco
El Greco was a sixteenth-century Greek-born painter, sculptor and architect, most often associated with the Spanish Renaissace and Mannerism of the Ventian Renaissance. As a master artist who employed highly expressive techniques, El Greco's paintings both confounded his contemporaries and influenced later movements like Expressionism and Cubism.
El Greco
Tintoretto
Tintoretto
Tintoretto
Tintoretto (born Jacopo Comin) was a sixteenth-century Venetian painter who rose to prominence during the High Renaissance. He is best known as a master of the Mannerist style, which idealized the human form rather than focus of naturalistic qualities. Tintoretto is also remembered for his dramatic and symbolic perspective when it came to religious subject matter.
Tintoretto
Ingres
Ingres
Ingres
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres was a French Neoclassical painter. Although he considered himself to be a history painter in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Jacques-Louis David, it was Ingres's portraits, both painted and drawn, that were recognized as his greatest legacy.
Ingres
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet
Gustave Courbet was a French painter and chief figure in the Realist movement of the mid-nineteenth century. His paintings often contained an emotional bleakness, and were praised for their precision and use of light. Along with Delacroix, Courbet was a key influence on the Impressionists.
TheArtStory: Gustave Courbet
Jacques Lipchitz
Jacques Lipchitz
Jacques Lipchitz
The Lithuanian-born Jacques Lipchitz moved to Paris in 1909, becoming a well-known Cubist sculptor and important member of the Ecole de Paris. Amid the German occupation of Paris during World War II, Lipchitz fled France for the United States in 1941 where he made large, often heroic sculptures.
TheArtStory: Jacques Lipchitz
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism
Cubism was developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque between 1907-1911, and it continued to be highly influential long after its decline. This classic phase has two stages: 'Analytic', in which forms seem to be 'analyzed' and fragmented; and 'Synthetic', in which pre-existing materials such as newspaper and wood veneer are collaged to the surface of the canvas.
TheArtStory: Cubism
Dada
Dada
Dada
Dada was an artistic and literary movement that emerged in 1916. It arose in reaction to World War I, and the nationalism and rationalism that many thought had led to the War. Influenced by several avant-gardes - Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism, and Expressionism - its output was wildly diverse, ranging from performance art to poetry, photography, sculpture, painting and collage. Emerging first in Zurich, it spread to cities including Berlin, Hanover, Paris, New York and Cologne.
TheArtStory: Dada
Futurism
Futurism
Futurism
Futurism was the most influential Italian avant-garde movement of the twentieth century. Dedicated to the modern age, it celebrated speed, movement, machinery and violence. At first influenced by Neo-Impressionism, and later by Cubism, some of its members were also drawn to mass culture and nontraditional forms of art.
TheArtStory: Futurism
Albert C. Barnes
Albert C. Barnes
Albert C. Barnes
Albert C. Barnes was an American physician, chemist, businessman and prominent art collector. In the 1920s, following his patent of the antiseptic drug Argyrol, and the selling of his business, Barnes began collecting modern art, which eventually led to his founding The Barnes Foundation, near Philadelphia, which today houses one of the world's most important collections of modern art, including Matisse, van Gogh, Modigliani, and 69 works by Cézanne.
Albert C. Barnes
Abstract Expressionism - Action Painting
Abstract Expressionism - Action Painting
Abstract Expressionism - Action Painting
Action Painting was a term coined by art critic Harold Rosenberg to refer to the gestural mode of Abstract Expressionism, characterized by drips, flung paint, and rapid, spontaneous strokes. In this view the painting is a record of the artist's activities over time.
TheArtStory: Abstract Expressionism - Action Painting
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock was the most well-known Abstract Expressionist and the key example of Action Painting. His work ranges from Jungian scenes of primitive rites to the purely abstract "drip paintings" of his later career.
TheArtStory: Jackson Pollock
Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning, a Dutch immigrant to New York, was one of the foremost Abstract Expressionist painters. His abstract compositions drew on Surrealist and figurative traditions, and typified the expressionistic 'gestural' style of the New York School.
TheArtStory: Willem de Kooning
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon was an Irish-born, English painter and one of the twentieth century's most celebrated and controversial existentialist artists. Bacon favored dark subject matter, often painting slightly abstracted, biomorphic figures, with bodies contorted or in the throes of madness. Painterly themes of Bacon's include the crucifixion, isolation and the mind's fragility. Bacon was also one of the few English artists of any prominence in modern and contemporary circles during the better part of the twentieth century.
TheArtStory: Francis Bacon
Jean Dubuffet
Jean Dubuffet
Jean Dubuffet
Jean Dubuffet was a French painter and sculptor, and arguably one of the most famous French artists of the mid-to-late-twentieth century. Dubuffet's paintings employed the impasto technique, in which oil paints were thickened by materials such as sand, tar and straw. He coined the term "Art Brut," otherwise known as "raw art."
TheArtStory: Jean Dubuffet
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse was a French painter and sculptor who helped forge modern art. From his early Fauvist works to his late cutouts, he emphasized expansive fields of color, the expressive potential of gesture, and the sensuality inherent in art-making.
TheArtStory: Henri Matisse
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne was an influential French Post-Impressionist painter whose depictions of the natural world, based on internal geometric planes, paved the way for Cubism and later modern art movements.
TheArtStory: Paul Cézanne
Renaissance
Renaissance
Renaissance
In the Renaissance, artists rediscovered techniques like rational space, three-point perspective, and plastic forms. Paintings frequently emphasized the human figure, allegory, classical mythology, and Christian themes.
Renaissance
Realism
Realism
Realism
Realism is an approach to art that stresses the naturalistic representation of things, the look of objects and figures in ordinary life. It emerged as a distinct movement in the mid-nineteenth century, in opposition to the idealistic, sometimes mythical subjects that were then popular, but it can be traced back to sixteenth-century Dutch art and forward into twentieth-century styles such as Social Realism.
TheArtStory: Realism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism
Post-Impressionism refers to a number of styles that emerged in reaction to Impressionism in the 1880s. The movement encompassed Symbolism and Neo-Impressionism before ceding to Fauvism around 1905. Its artists turned away from effects of light and atmosphere to explore new avenues such as color theory and personal feeling, often using colors and forms in intense and expressive ways.
TheArtStory: Post-Impressionism
Fauvism
Fauvism
Fauvism
Fauvism was an early twentieth-century art movement founded by Henri Matisse and André Derain. Labeled as "wild beasts", Fauve artists favored vibrant colors and winding gestural strokes across the canvas.
TheArtStory: Fauvism
Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall was a Russian-born, Jewish-French artist that reached great popularity during the twentieth century. Although his art is associated with several movements, Chagall is commonly grouped in with the German Expressionists. Much of his early work was credited with synthesizing visual elements of Cubism, Symbolism and Fauvism.
TheArtStory: Marc Chagall
CoBrA Group
CoBrA Group
CoBrA Group
CoBrA was an avant-garde movement initiated by Karel Apel, Corneille Beverloo, Constant Nieuwenhuys, Christian Dotremont, Asger Jorn, and Joseph Noiret in 1948. The international collective, which spanned the cities of Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam, focused on elements of spontaneity, experimentation, primitivism, and fantasy in their work. Although the group disbanded in 1951, they had a lasting influence on the development of later twentieth-century abstract movements throughout Europe.
TheArtStory: CoBrA Group
Neo-Expressionism
Neo-Expressionism
Neo-Expressionism
Neo-Expressionism began as a movement in German art in the early 1960s with the emergence of Georg Baselitz. It gained momentum, and drew in painters from Germany and the United States - often bringing artists back to painting as a serious and contemporary medium for artistic exploration.
TheArtStory: Neo-Expressionism
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